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Diversity & Inclusion
February 19, 2020

‘100% participation in the 2020 census is critically important’

Viewpoints: As citizens and taxpayers, we can do no less to see that we have a larger voice in the conversation and more seats at the table, writes Dr. Johnetta Cole of the National Council of Negro Women.

Dr. Johnetta Cole smiles.
Dr. Johnetta Cole is the president and national chair for the National Council of Negro Women.
Viewpoints image features a black-and-white photo of Dr. Johnetta Cole of the National Council of Negro Women.
Diversity & Inclusion
February 19, 2020

‘100% participation in the 2020 census is critically important’

Viewpoints: As citizens and taxpayers, we can do no less to see that we have a larger voice in the conversation and more seats at the table, writes Dr. Johnetta Cole of the National Council of Negro Women.

Our monthly Viewpoints series invites guest authors from outside of Wells Fargo to share an important perspective related to their work. Today, we welcome Dr. Johnetta Cole, president and national chair of the National Council of Negro Women.

This year, the National Council of Negro Women, Inc. will observe 85 years of commitment to its mission to lead, advocate for, and empower women of African descent, their families, and communities. Our founder, Mary McLeod Bethune — a distinguished educator and renowned activist — crafted a unique structure in 32 states, consisting of 38 formally affiliated national women’s organizations and 300 community and campus-based local sections.

Together, we fulfill our mission through activities based on a four-pronged foundation — known as Four for the Future — which includes: 

  1. Education, with an emphasis on STEAM — science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics
  2. Health equity and elimination of health disparities
  3. Economic stability, with a focus on financial literacy and entrepreneurship
  4. Civic engagement

In our focus on civic engagement, we will do everything possible to assure that NCNW members and the public are prepared to make informed choices among those seeking office in Washington, D.C.; state; and municipal governments. Certainly, we may not all think and vote the same way, but we will all be ready to ask the hard questions and demand honest answers.

A group photo of attendees at the 1940 national convention for the National Council of Negro Women.
Photo: National Council of Negro Women

One thing I want to emphasize with urgency is that 100% participation in the 2020 census is critically important to assure that our communities receive a fair and equitable share of basic resources.

According to 2020Census.gov, the census provides critical data that lawmakers, business owners, teachers, and many others use to provide daily services, products, and support for the communities around us. Every year, billions of dollars in federal funding go to hospitals, fire departments, schools, roads, and other resources. In addition, in African American communities, this data impacts funding of critical areas such as housing assistance, public transportation, historically black colleges and universities, health services, jobs, and minority-owned businesses.

The results of the census also determine the number of seats each state will have in the U.S. House of Representatives, and determines how lines are drawn for congressional and state legislative redistricting. As citizens and taxpayers, we can do no less to see that we have a larger voice in the conversation and more seats at the table. We encourage everyone to participate in this important process, perform their civic duties, and invite others to join them in doing the same.

Guidance and mentorship for young black women

Last year, in my first official appearance as NCNW president, I joined sisters of all ages, creeds, and colors as a part of the Washington, D.C., Women’s March. Despite the cold weather, the fire that was ignited by sharing the common goals and powerful energy of so many sisters kept us warm. I was also honored to be the keynote speaker and present the Dorothy I. Height Award for the Institute for the Advancement of Multicultural & Minority Medicine in Washington, D.C.

The NCNW logo is an image of its headquarters building, the organization's name and the words

As we continue to advance Dr. Bethune’s vision for NCNW, our mission-based activities include the Women’s Economic Empowerment and Millennial Entrepreneurs programs, going into their fifth year. With Wells Fargo as a partner, these live gatherings and webinars offer our 2 million members information and guidance on business best practices, financial growth and stability, and insights into handling their own personal investing. In a recent survey of participants of our Millennial Entrepreneur program, 86% reported that their family's economic condition has improved or stayed the same, citing stronger family economic stability, more job creation in underserved communities, and better financial habits as positive outcomes from the program. Last year we also began the NCNW Historically Black Colleges and Universities Tour, which educated and inspired 3,000 high school students to infinite possibilities.

GirlTECH, one of NCNW’s newest efforts, brought together professional and college sisters for a conversation about our place in the world of technology. The inaugural GirlTECH event last April included panel discussions on the topics of telehealth, telemedicine, data privacy, and cybersecurity. More than 2,800 participants shared the experience, and we are already planning GirlTECH 2020.

These are just a few of the event highlights from last year. If we are to continue making an impact in a more meaningful way, then we must combine our traditional wisdom with the emboldened wings of youth and move NCNW onward, ever onward. With that, I close, as we begin a new decade, with warmth and love and faith and hope that the next decade is our best yet.

A large group of African American women smiling and waving at the camera.
The NCNW board at the organization’s national convention in November 2018 in Washington, D.C.
Photo: National Council of Negro Women
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